Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 22, 2005
WAR: Battle Droids
The U.S. military is developing robot soldiers? This seems like it could have some real hazards to work out:
"They don't get hungry," said Gordon Johnson of the Pentagon's Joint Forces Command. "They're not afraid. They don't forget their orders. They don't care if the guy next to them has just been shot. Will they do a better job than humans? Yes."
The robot soldier has been a dream at the Pentagon for 30 years. And some involved in the work say it may take at least 30 more years to realize in full. Well before then, they say, the military will have to answer some tough questions if it intends to trust robots with the responsibility of distinguishing friend from foe, combatant from innocent bystander.
Of course, even aside from the issue of whether robots can be trusted not to target civilians, there's a second issue: as Victor Davis Hanson has often argued, a significant part of America's competitive advantage in combat is the brains and flexibility of soldiers from free societies, as opposed to those trained and conditioned in autocracies. Hopefully, a movement in the direction of automated soldiers won't erode that.